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Software Composition Analysis

What is Software Composition Analysis (SCA)?

Software composition analysis (SCA) - Assists information technology and software development teams by monitoring open source components and identifying vulnerabilities and licensing compliance to enforce compliance and supply chain security best practices.

Why is Software Composition Analysis (SCA) Important

According to GitHub, 97% of applications use open source code with 90% of companies leveraging it1. Additionally, according to AquaSec, software supply chain attacks, which exploit open source components, increased by over 300% in 20212.

Malicious actors exploit open source components because teams must manage large attack surfaces which are constantly changing, and they often have inadequate security measures and tools in place to protect themselves and their components.

For example, in 2022, attackers inserted malicious code into over 35,000 GitHub repositories, affecting an estimated 83 million developers3.

To protect themselves from this attack as well as future incidents, organizations urgently wanted to confirm that their open source components and code did not contain malware, vulnerabilities, and were not breached in this attack.

By adopting the correct best practices and security tools, enterprises are able to effectively protect their software supply chain. With the rise in supply chain attacks which exploit open source components, SCA tools are becoming more widely used as they scan components for vulnerabilities and identify the composition and size of attack surface.

SCA Business Benefits

SCA tools were created to address the challenges listed above and help organizations manage, secure, and remove risks across their open source components. They uphold several use cases around licensing compliance, risk assessment, policy management, and software development.

• Review your attack surface - SCA tools review components and their dependencies to generate a software bill of materials (SBOM) which lists components and how they are assembled by stating their supplier, version, and relationship with other dependencies.

• Ensure that open source components are used legally - They monitor open source components to identify their licenses and rules for consumption.

• Apply consistent open source policies - SCA tools support and enforce policies and guardrails to establish consistent security practices and manage risks associated with open source components.

Who Uses SCA Tools?

Legal teams - To ensure that open source components are being used in accordance to their license and usage requirements.

DevSecOps - To verify that open source components are safe to include in their builds by seeing if they contain vulnerabilities.

AppSec - To know their attack surface’s size and its inherent risks by seeing the composition of their components and how their environment changes over time.

Risk and Compliance - To confirm that mandates are adhered to in order to enforce software supply chain security.

Supply Chain Security Challenges

The risks regarding vulnerabilities, licensing requirements, open source project contributors, and hidden threats cause security teams to struggle to manage their open source components.

Security teams must understand the risks associated with their components, knowing if they contain vulnerabilities and if they meet licensing compliance requirements for how they would be used. This should happen in pre-production, before these concerns could potentially emerge as serious issues.

Also, while open source contributors regularly identify and remediate vulnerabilities, developers must update their components, because as vulnerabilities are discovered, public exploits are published and threat actors try to target them.

Additionally, most vulnerabilities are embedded several layers into components where addressing root packages that are being used fails to protect the libraries that are used.

Finally, many open source licenses stipulate that users must follow a strict set of rules. Failure to follow these rules may lead to legal consequences for the organizations that operate these components. This is why it is important to understand the licensing and usage requirements for open source packages.

With deeply embedded vulnerabilities, various licensing requirements to follow, frequent updates to facilitate, and many components to manage, security teams have difficulties ensuring that their open source packages are secure and legal to use.

Learn more about SCA

If you are interested in learning more about how ReversingLabs’ Software Supply Chain Security (SSCS) platform works together with SCA tools to secure open source and third party software components, feel free to review our business brief: Better Together: How SSCS and SCA Tools work Together when Securing the Software Supply Chain

If you are interested in learning more about SCA tools, we released several resources which detail the background information, features and use cases, and shortcomings that SCA tools face as they assist users in securing their software supply chain.


SCA is good. Software Supply Chain Security is better

SCA is good. Software Supply Chain Security is better.

Software composition analysis and the evolution of application security

Software composition analysis and the evolution of application security

Forrester Report
Forrester Report

The Software Composition Analysis Landscape, Q1 2023